This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!
Tuesday, 20 January 2009
President Obama calls for new 'age of responsibility'
We’ve all just become part of history.
A son of Africa is now President of the United States.
‘President Obama’ – it’s got a nice ring to it, hasn’t it?
In all honesty, I had tears streaming down my face from the moment Aretha Franklin started singing. I found it difficult to stop. It wasn’t just the pomp and ceremony that sent a shiver down my spine, it was also the knowledge and relief that a man I have wished and willed to become President for the last four years, finally made it.
On days like this, you are reminded that not only is the President a political figure but also Head of State and a symbol of hope for millions of people around the world. The grand tradition of ceremonies and parades and poetry readings is the sort of spectacle you would only get in America and it is all the more special for it.
One of the most beautiful moments in the ceremony, was the benediction given by The Reverend Dr Joseph Lowery (a hero of the civil rights movement). It was moving and emotional and funny. It deserves a second viewing.
After the swearing in ceremony, in which it was clear President Obama was nervous, he began his inaugural speech.
Almost immediately, he started to address the problems confronting America. It was a chastened, business-like and direct approach. He warned of “serious challenges” ahead but promised that these challenges “will be met”.
He told America that it had chosen ‘hope’ over ‘fear’ and he attacked the ‘irresponsibility and greed’ of some people and the ‘dogma and divisiveness’ of others.
He called for, “A new era of responsibility, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world”.
As predicted he called for a new relationship between America and the Muslim world based on mutual respect and he said that at times America had not got the balance right between liberty and security. This means an end to Guantanamo and the Bush Administration’s policies of torture.
However, the biggest applause came when he mentioned his father, his social standing and the changes that had occurred since the civil rights struggle. The reference to his father certainly resonated in a city that was built on the back of slavery and which to this day still has a large Black underclass. As a white Brit, I am not sure that I can truly understand what it means for African Americans to see a Black man elected President. But I know that if ‘Hail to the Chief’ can be played for a man whose father was Kenyan and whose mother comes from Kansas, then the American Dream must still be alive.
The speech summed up the problems of America and promised hope for the future. By urging America to “reaffirm its enduring spirit” his words as one television commentator said were both timely and timeless.
Today was a celebration, not just for Barack Obama or even the African American people, but a celebration also of America’s genuine capacity to renew itself again and again.
As Bush looked tired and shrunken and Cheney was wheeled away in his chair, President Obama knows that the weight of the world’s expectations rest on his shoulders.
His popularity will give him a cushion for the time being but tomorrow morning as he steps into the Oval Office he will be met with a huge in-tray of problems that need to be tackled straight away.
Roll on the first one hundred days…